Saturday, January 28, 2012

Freedom to beat your spouse

Ilya Gerner, at Indecision Forever, makes a good point:
One thing to keep in mind whenever a presidential candidate suggests that some issue is best handled at the state or local level is the fact that this relegates lawmaking to state and local legislators and absolutely nothing about the history of governments suggests that is a good idea. Our "laboratories of democracy" are basically 50 self-contained arguments against federalism.

I think of this whenever I hear the arguments against "professional" politicians, too. We want amateurs writing our laws, just like we want amateur surgeons, and amateur financial advisers, and even amateur plumbers, right? After all, why would we want people who actually know something about government?

And in many states, including my own, state legislators are very poorly paid. The intent, I'm sure, is so only rich people can run things. But all too often, we end up with retired people with too much time on their hands, obsessed kooks riding their particular hobbyhorse, and others who give us the kind of government we deserve (unfortunately).

Yeah, anyone can write laws, huh? It's not like driving a cab, where you need a license. It's not like hauling garbage, where you need some knowledge of what you're doing. If anyone can vote, it follows that anyone can legislate, right? And have you seen the terrible job these people do? They don't deserve more money! (I think you can see the logical flaw in that without me pointing it out to you, can't you?)

And even in the best of circumstances, it's easier to get crazy legislated locally, or even at the state level, rather than nationally. I know it doesn't always seem like that, but historically, that's been true. Sometimes, the states can work as laboratories for civics experiments, but the federal government still needs to maintain an oversight role.

Anyway, what's the particular crazy here?
Take New Hampshire, which in some populist conceit has decided that every dozen residents need their own severely under-resourced and under-paid state legislator, who will somehow remain "close to the people." Of course, the natural conclusion of "citizen legislatures" isn't home-spun wisdom and incorruptibility, insomuch as a bunch of part-time real-estate agents throwing monkey feces at a wall and calling the result a "House Bill."

The latest in the New Hampshire legislature's attempt to beclown their state as the Arizona of New England is House Bill 1581, which would stand up to lobbyists from Big Battered Spouse and prevent police officers from making an arrest in a domestic violence case without first getting a warrant unless the officer witnessed the crime. The Concord Monitor explains
An officer is called to a home where she sees clear evidence that an assault has occurred. The furniture is overturned, the children are sobbing, and the face of the woman of the house is bruised and bleeding. It's obvious who the assailant was, but the officer arrived after the assault occurred. It's a small department, and no one else on the force is available to keep the peace until the officer finds a judge or justice of the peace to issue a warrant. The officer leaves, and the abuser renews his attack with even more ferocity, punishing his victim for having called for help.

... The legislative mastermind behind H.B. 1581 is Republican Representative Dan Itse, whose own political philosophy he explains in ways only a guest on the Glenn Beck and Alex Jones Shows can…
Today our nation, though still the freest in the world, is in danger of sliding into tyranny. The reason is best explained in the prelude to the movie "Fellowship of the Ring." The elf queen Galadriel is giving a discourse on the history of the ring, and man's lust for power over other men. Near the conclusion she states "…and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth…"

Naturally, Itse's conclusion is that Galadriel should shut her elf queen mouth and go back to making him a Lembas bread sandwich.

If you think we Americans know little about our national government, try us on state politics. Most of us are concerned with our own lives, and we spend little time or energy doing our civic duty. All too many of my fellow citizens don't even vote. And when we do vote, we generally vote our prejudices and our ignorance.

Well, to paraphrase what I said earlier, we tend to get the kinds of politicians we deserve. It's probably a miracle we manage as well as we do.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

A bit of levity, if I may? To paraphrase a line from the 1986 movie "Running Scared:"

We can get a warrant. Do you want to be hand cuffed in some uncomfortable position in the meantime?"